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Wednesday, 20 November 2013 13:15

Where would we be without ‘Big Brother’

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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One would think a parent would want what’s best for his or her child. That should include knowing better than to smoke in the immediate vicinity of children.

Is it that we as a society have not done enough to educate adults about the harmful effects of tobacco products?
It’s important to protect children from what can knowingly harm them, but when is ‘Big Brother’ going too far? The Alberta government may have crossed that line with its most recent legislation changes.
The Tobacco Reduction Act first came into law Jan. 1, 2008. It prohibits smoking in all public places and workplaces; bans retail displays advertising and promotion of tobacco products and prohibits the sale of tobacco products from all health-care facilities, public post-secondary campuses, pharmacies and stores that contain a pharmacy.
All good ideas and an effective way to protect all individuals, not just minors.
On Nov. 7, the PC government introduced the Tobacco Reduction Amendment Act. The new legislation takes protecting people from the harmful effects of tobacco products one step further.
There are some main areas of the amendment: prohibiting the selling and giving (known as “furnishing”) of tobacco products to minors in public places; requiring some tobacco products be sold in minimum package sizes thus making tobacco products less affordable for young people; and prohibiting the smoking of tobacco-like products in the same locations where the smoking of tobacco products is prohibited including workplaces, public vehicles and within five metres from the doorway, window or air intake of a public place or workplace.
Another amendment prohibits smoking in vehicles with children present and repealing the Tobacco Reduction (Protection of Children in vehicles) Amendment Act of 2012. If passed, this means in Alberta smoking in a vehicle with a minor present — considered anyone under the age of 18 — would no longer be allowed in the hopes of reducing children’s exposure to second-hand smoke.
We’re not sure Alberta politicians have thought about the logistics of this law actually being enforced. Realistically how easy is it going to be for a police officer to catch an individual smoking in a vehicle with children present? We’ve seen how hard it can be to catch those people who are continuing to drive distracted by texting or talking on their cell phones while driving.
It is actually illegal in Alberta for minors to smoke, but how many get ticketed for this offense? We’ve seen our fair share of teenagers walking down a street or sitting in a vehicle with a cigarette in their hands. If a 19-year-old smoker is dating a 17-year-old does that mean he can’t smoke in a vehicle with his girlfriend?
We’re wondering at what point it is up to individuals to assume responsibility for themselves? Should a government help educate a public to ensure people are making the best decisions they can for the benefit of their health and livelihood? Absolutely. Should a government create a law that will be hard to enforce?
We’re not so sure.
The educated and common sense answer is that adults should want the best for those under the age of 18. They should want to give them a fighting chance at a healthy life and if that means they need to abstain from smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy meals when or wherever they are spending time with them, then it should be on their conscience and responsibility to do so. That doesn’t mean it should be written into law.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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